WVU basketball prepares for play in the Big 12
October 12, 2012 ·
As the West Virginia University football team continues to make headlines for its play this season, college basketball season is about to begin as well. WVU’s men’s basketball team has been picked to finish sixth in its first season in the Big 12 Conference.
WVU struggled last season, finishing the year with a 19-14 record, after starting the year at 15-5.
Last season’s squad had several freshmen playing a significant amount of time each game.
This year, there are new faces yet again: two freshmen, three transfers, and a European player from the Ukraine who Huggins says is struggling with language.
"He can understand English, and he can speak English, but when everything is moving as fast as things move, and you’re trying to coach people, I think he’s had a hard time with the language," Huggins said.
"He’s a bright guy, so he’ll pick it up, but he’s way behind right now because he wasn’t here in the summer."
A pre-season poll of Big 12 teams has picked West Virginia to finish sixth in the league, out of 10 schools.
Huggins says his team can do very well, and possibly surprise some people, as long as the players stay healthy and compete at a high level.
"If we’re the sixth best team in that league, it’s a hell of a league," Huggins said.
"We’ve got a chance to be pretty good, I’ve said that all along, I haven’t seen anything that would make me feel otherwise, other than guys getting hurt. If we can stay healthy, we’ve got as good a chance as anybody does, I think."
Huggins has already coached in the Big 12 before. For one year, he was the head coach at Kansas State University.
The team will play each of the nine other Big 12 schools twice during the season.
This means there will be some long travel trips, as all the schools in the league are located in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Huggins says travel does present a concern.
"What are you going to do? You think, you get back here at 4:30 in the morning, I ought to have you guys stand in front of the bus and say, now get your ass to class at 8 o’clock now," said Huggins.
"After you got in at 4:30 a.m., and then say, hey by the way, we practice at 1:30 p.m., make sure you’re ready to go. It’s hard, but it is what it is."
But the players are excited to start working in a new league.
Kevin Noreen is a sophomore player from Minneapolis, MN.
He says one great thing about the move is that he’ll be playing at some schools that aren’t far from his hometown.
"These places we go travel are going to have great home crowds, and the school spirit is just unlike anything we’ve seen," said Noreen.
"I’ll be able to get closer to home because we get to go to Iowa State, so that will be nice for my family, that’s about a three, four hour drive for them to come see me. So that’s what I’m looking forward to the most."
Deniz Kilicli is a senior player from Turkey.
He’s the only player left on the team that played on the 2010 squad that went all the way to the NCAA Final Four.
Kilicli says he expects big things from this year’s team.
"I think this team really knows what to do, and everybody has been in the gym working out. Everybody has been here all summer," said Kilicli.
"I think this year is going to be easier than last year, for me to be a leader, because everybody understands what to do. I’m the only guy, so it’s a big responsibility."
The season begins on November 6th with an exhibition game against Glenville State College.